“Before political subjugation comes intellectual subordination”-Tataalo Alamu, Invention Of African Intellectual Tradition, The Nation Newspapers, November, 2011.
Everything was created from a thought, including nations. Success and failure are most often products of what was executed from thoughts. The question is, was Nigeria and indeed Africa a badly conceived idea or a badly executed one? This question begets many answers. But I dare say Nigeria, nay Africa, was a well conceived and well executed idea, as a colonial plantain plantation. But an economic plantation cannot be transformed into a viable political nation overnight. It must be done with persistent, coherent and committed intellectual exertion.
As I continue from where I drew the curtains last week, I shall attempt to link scarcity of knowledge in the evolution of our nation to our misadventure. Herein lies a caveat, in attempting this arduous task, I may dabble too much into our problems more than focusing on the topic of knowledge production. I apologize in advance as it will not be deliberate. As I have said previously, writing is a writhing task especially when you try to isolate and extricate one problem from another in Nigeria.
I believe the mind is a vacuum; an open book. Every man was born tabula rasa. It remains that way until experience comes to play as man grapples with the extant realities of his environment. This is why nations with ambition, try to isolate the mind of their people and impel them to think in terms of productivity, creativity and innovation. The mind is such a big thing to trifle with. I make a biblical detour as I try to expatiate. When God created Adam, rather, after God created Adam, he left the job of “sub-creation” to him. Adam had to use his intuition to give names to all animals, plants etc, such that they still the names we call these things, language variation notwithstanding. Adam used his skull to perform his tasks. God created man, with the intuition to grapple with his realities and engage his circumstances with scientific precision. God will not do for man, what He has created man to do for himself. You can pray for His inspiration and guidance in directing your affairs, but you do not expect Him to put food on your table, provide your shelter and govern your state. God created us to create something. gods don’t build nations, people do. Wealth creation and national liberation can hardly be accomplished without productivity. Productivity can only be increased via the window of knowledge. For instance, less than 1% of the American population feeds the over 300 million Americans and other nations. They have taken advantage of the unquantifiable potentials of the human mind to navigate their way to the summit of human affirmation and dominance. Nigeria cannot even feed itself. Africa, lacking in knowledge, depends entirely on commodities. We rather export cocoa than chocolate, oranges than juice, cassava rather than ethanol etc. you cannot sustain a nation on commodities in this era. We import finished products, and export jobs. Again, this was the objective of the imperialists. This was the reason why colonialism happened and why Africa was created in the first place. We have continued to own fidelity to this founding charter. We produce raw materials, export them, they are returned as finished products. Our leather becomes their shoes, our cocoa becomes their chocolate, we are still the slave plantation and they are still the slave holders.
Lack of knowledge production is the reason why we lack ambition as a nation. You cannot overcome what you do not despise. This is why we still use hoe and cutlass to farm and we expect these to feed a nation of almost 200 million. We generate lesser electricity than Paris, Germany with a population of 80 million generates more than 300, 000 Megawatts of electricity, while we are struggling to keep ours at 3,000 Megawatts. We leave policing to the centre and expect the centre to understand that the topography of Buguma is not the same as Kafanchan. We still use hammer to crush stones, camels to carry goods yet our engineers are gainfully employed in banks! In fact our leaders visit dibias to proffer solutions to economic crisis. Some governors have even attributed our economic woes to divine orchestration. Vain religiousity cannot take the place of detailed perspicacity. Thoughtlessness should not be mistaken for godliness. God is too big to be reduced to such vanity. Abdication of what is a primary responsibility cannot be redressed by patronizing God’s sovereignty. It is a futile effort.
The challenges that has bedeviled our generation, bogged down to clear this debris of acute ethnicity, wholesale butchery, internecine wars definitive of our continent are staggering. But it is only when we appreciate the roots of our problems that we can prescribe solutions. What we see in the form of corruption, nepotism, stark inhumanity on our continent is the manifestation of what is a deeper malady. We should not mistake the symptoms for the disease. A faulty premise begets a faulty conclusion. Embedded in the faulty answer is the faulty question. A bad diagnosis attracts a wrong remedy. The question, dear readers, is not why we have these effects, but what is the cause of these realities? The problems I dare say are the inability to achieve elite consensus even at the most minimal level and knowledge production. Most other problems are outgrowths of these two. While the first is crucial, the second is to me more fundamental. Our people currently find it had to grapple with realities. Like I earlier stated, the mind is a vacuum which must be filled either by knowledge or ignorance. Once the latter occurs, the human is in darkness with no hope of emancipation. What is begotten is irresponsible leadership which has led to the capitulation of many states in Africa. There is therefore an urgent need to anchor national evolution on knowledge production and elite consensus. Now, by knowledge production, I do not mean being credentialed or certificated as is our wont, which hardly refines the human mind. I do not propose the regurgitation of 19th century syllabus as is our culture. It is of great danger to the nation to the “miseducated” than the ignorant. The miseducated does not know that he does not know. I am talking of the type that will stimulate the mind towards articulating sound solutions for the liberation, management and preservation of our continent. Africa will always lag behind if she does not transform herself with knowledge. The “trade ahead of aid” slogan bandied about by our leaders is not inspired by an aforethought economic plan, coherent policy formulation, educational roadmap that will power such motive, but it is chaired by people who are neither partakers nor believers in the vision they profess. It is difficult to see how a Pierre Nguruziza will entrench sound political principles and economic master plan that will liberate Burundians. His immediate concern is Bujumbura, the seat of power.
A senior friend and mentor, asked on twitter, if anybody could articulate the Nigerian dream. Yours sincerely replied, with caustic relish, that I could articulate the Nigerian nightmare. In one fell swoop, there was a summary summation and dismemberment of a shared contradiction and circumstance. He, an evolving administrator (he was unarguably the best student leader of his time; the most innovative, creative and articulate faculty president in his time at the University of Ibadan), must have been miffed and agitated by his inability to comprehend Nigeria, Africa and their litany of problems. As a faculty president, he ensured he had an elite consensus and executed his many programmes using the best of human resources the faculty of law U.I could offer. It is therefore heart renting to see what was successfully done at the micro level of a university with a community as diverse as U.I’s, being difficult to achieve at the national level. I share his anguish and exasperation. Our anger is not directed at a dead past, but a dying future. Our generation seems distracted rather than surefooted. We are yet to extricate ourselves from the mindlessness of yesterday. We are being good sons of our fathers. This concern is even exacerbated by PMB’s second coming which is crumbling and a far cry from the messianic encore we had envisioned it to be.
At this juncture, I must say, we do not need anybody to tell us of our horrible state when the food we eat, the cloth we wear, the movies we see, our leisure, our history, our identity, legal system, our drugs, are given to us by nations who in the name of “common humanity” and globalization will prefer us bound to their apron strings. This is the reason for the epigraph at the beginning of this article. We need an urgent national rebirth.
As I conclude, my question is what is our expectation from governance? How do we expect our nation to be for ourselves and our children? Our answers will be the core of our consideration as we make our decisions in 2019. Our reality cannot be bigger than our expectation. As alliances are being forged ahead of the elections in 2019 over sticks of suya and cups of palmwine, will merit and knowledge play a pivotal role in 2019 or our pockets and ethno-religious solidarity? Our misbegotten past is going to be our future, if we embark on the same path as our fore fathers. For Nigeria to emerge as the unique torch bearer of the emancipation of the black race, it must ensure that knowledge guides its deliberations and policy articulation. Without knowledge production, we cannot be a worthy contemporary in the league of nations with high cerebral power. After all, only the deep can call to the deep.
Thomas Paine, the redoubtable campaigner against imperialism, in his treatise “Age of Reason” insisted that man should be the ultimate decider of his own fate since he has been empowered by God with the capacity for such assignment. Yours sincerely may not share in every piece of his stipulations but he undoubtedly was an enigma. As an ardent student of philosophy, history and an avid reader of Obafemi Awolowo’s philosophy, policies and postulations, I shall make concerted effort at critiquing Awo’s vision for national actualization and development. It is also important to see how Awo tried to establish a nexus between micro nationalism (tribe) and macro-nationalism (nation). We shall espouse Awo’s understanding of man and his roles and how this structured his policy formulation, articulation and implementation; his famous policy being the free education programme. It is an attempt to project his thoughts and not his person lest we engage in mindless ethnically induced polemics. Till then, adios!!!!!
Micah Stephen, combines his love for law with a deep appreciation of history and classical studies. He considers himself to be an admixture of a lawyer, classicist, historian and entrepreneur.